How to: Create a C/C++ Union by Using Attributes (C# and Visual Basic)

By using attributes you can customize how structs are laid out in memory. For example, you can create what is known as a union in C/C++ by using the StructLayout(LayoutKind.Explicit) and FieldOffset attributes.

In this code segment, all of the fields of TestUnion start at the same location in memory.


[System.Runtime.InteropServices.StructLayout(LayoutKind.Explicit)]
struct TestUnion
{
    [System.Runtime.InteropServices.FieldOffset(0)]
    public int i;

    [System.Runtime.InteropServices.FieldOffset(0)]
    public double d;

    [System.Runtime.InteropServices.FieldOffset(0)]
    public char c;

    [System.Runtime.InteropServices.FieldOffset(0)]
    public byte b;
}


The following is another example where fields start at different explicitly set locations.


[System.Runtime.InteropServices.StructLayout(LayoutKind.Explicit)]
struct TestExplicit
{
    [System.Runtime.InteropServices.FieldOffset(0)]
    public long lg;

    [System.Runtime.InteropServices.FieldOffset(0)]
    public int i1;

    [System.Runtime.InteropServices.FieldOffset(4)]
    public int i2;

    [System.Runtime.InteropServices.FieldOffset(8)]
    public double d;

    [System.Runtime.InteropServices.FieldOffset(12)]
    public char c;

    [System.Runtime.InteropServices.FieldOffset(14)]
    public byte b;
}


The two integer fields, i1 and i2, share the same memory locations as lg. This sort of control over struct layout is useful when using platform invocation.

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